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Wilfred Owen: Anthem for Doomed Youth, 1917

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The first part of the poem.
    1. Double meaning and the rhythm of the words.
    2. The alliterations in 't' and 'r'.
    3. Religious symbols in second quatrain of the first part of the poem.
  3. The second part of the poem.
    1. The symbols of funerals.
    2. A sacred dimension detached from the horror of war.
    3. Evoking death and funeral symbols.
  4. Conclusion.

The text to be commented upon is a poem written by Wilfred Owen in 1917 entitled Anthem for doomed youth. It is a petrarchan sonnet, a sort of diptych with two different parts which hinges upon lines 9 and 10. The title is a key for the interpretation of the sonnet which is an ideological poem, a denunciation which echoes as an anthem. It connotes a sort of solemnity, a sort of duty to be returned to the youth. In fact, the title contains the reading protocol. The first part of this poem is composed of two quatrains which deal with the violence and the realms of war. We can note that Owen uses a sonnet which is the lyrical form par excellence to evoke a violent reality, an event which is opposed to the feeling of love.

[...] We can understand that it is a mimetic device to represent in the first quatrains war and the sufferings of war and to represent in the two tercets death through the absence of light and the presence of peace after death. This impression of a mimetic device is reinforced by the changing of time, from present to future (shall be). We can speak of a diptych in which each part reinforces the other as an opposed vision of death. Furthermore this new lexical field creates the impression of a more intimate suffering, a more genuine suffering since what is important is not the concrete symbol of funerals such as bells or candles but the abstract value of the funerals, that is to say the presence of loved beings and the presence of the notion of respect. [...]


[...] The binary rhythm of ?prayers or bells? shows a gradation: the prayers are the human beings and the bells are higher, as a better link between the human beings and God. War also corrupts these symbols since the bells are the sounds of bugles. At line six, the verb ?mourning? refers to the ?prayers? whereas the may be nearer from the What is disturbing is the double meaning of choirs since we expect them to be a religious symbol, a sacred word whereas they are the sounds of artillery, the shadows of death. [...]

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